Pushing HP5+ with D23

It was inevitable. Absolutely no way around it no matter much I tried to ignore it. Being an avid HP5+ shooter, and one who generally gives it a +1 push right out of the gate, I have felt odd shooting it at box speed since becoming acquainted with, and using heavily, D23. I’m not sure where I heard it, and haven’t looked too hard to relocate the info, that D23 is not good for pushing films. I also heard that there is a slight speed loss when using this developer and you should lower your EI. More on that in subsequent posts. Suffice it to say that a vast majority, like almost all, films I’ve shot since initiating the use of D23 have been shot at box speed and have yielded great results for ME.

Nikon F4 | Ilford HP5 | D23

After the first few rolls developed in D23 I knew I was in love. Actually, I was pretty sure of it after the first roll, but wanted to use it a few more times just to make sure I could repeat the results I was loving from that first roll. Sure enough, each successive roll was just as rewarding as the one before it. Even more-so after I started with replenishing. One thing was bothering me though. I hadn’t push any films in it yet, not even my beloved HP5. For me, when it comes to HP5, EI 800 is the new 400. Being an Xtol user at the time, this was a walk in the park. For that matter 1600 and 3200 were child’s play. The burning question for me though was, “Will D23 be able to handle 3200, 1600, or even my usual 800?”.

Nikon F4 | Ilford HP5 | D23

After an all too long delay, I got my answer today. I rolled 20 exposures from my bulk roll and loaded the Nikon F4, fitted it with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI, and set the ASA to 3200 on the cameras ASA dial. This was around 11:30 am on a nearly cloudless day, which is not ideal conditions for pushing film to 3200. Me being the “patient” man that I am decided to damn the torpedoes and charge full speed ahead anyway instead of waiting until later in the evening when the light would be more agreeable with the speed rating. All I would need to do is find a nice wooded area and my problem would be more manageable. Me in the woods, a real shocker there, I know. Since this was supposed to be a quick test roll I didn’t see the need to travel the 20 plus miles to either of my usual State/Metroparks, so I just ran across town to our less than impressive city park. It has trees, a path and, most importantly at this point, a huge reduction in sunlight. At 3200 I had to travel fairly far into the wooded area and stop down to around f/4 before the F4 would stop blinking “HI” and give me usable shutter speeds. But once I found the spot it took no time at all to finish the roll.

Nikon F4 | Ilford HP5 | D23

While I was out there shooting, I was thinking about development. I knew that I initially embarked on this in order to test whether D23 would perform to my liking when pushing HP5, but then another thought came to mind. What if I used Barry Thorton’s Two Bath? I hadn’t used it in a long time and have actually felt bad that I mixed it up and have pretty much cast it aside due to my zeal for my new favored child, D23. “No”, I told myself. “Use it on the next roll if you want. This roll was meant as a push test. Stick to the program, man.”. So that is what I did. I came home and got out the D23 and TF-2 fixer. Poured them in their respective measuring cups and “took their temps” and promptly put the in the freezer to get them to the proper working temperature of 68 degrees.

While the chemicals were cooling it was time to figure out just what the development time should be for HP5 rated at 3200. Normally Massive Dev has the time I need. This was not one of those times. No times for D23 stock and HP5 beyond box speed. That one I know by heart, seven and a half minutes. What I did find was D76 stock with HP5 at 1600. Now I had something easier to work with. I adjusted the time for an additional one stop push and had my time of 16:45. I then loaded the tank, returned to the kitchen, retrieved the developer from the freezer and with just a little more time to cool down I was ready to “soup the film” as the cool kids say. Agitation was my standard continuous agitation for the first minute with agitations for 5 seconds for each remaining minute in the development cycle. Since I use the agitation stick (swizzle stick, I call it) this amounts to about three twists once every minute. Fixing was done via the twice clearing time method, which ended up being roughly 4 minutes. Wash using the Ilford Wash method and one minute in Kodak Photoflo and the roll was ready for drying.

Nikon F4 | Ilford HP5 | D23

Am I happy with the results? Do I think this test was a success? Do I see myself doing this again? Yes, I’m quite pleased with the results I got. Coming from using Xtol as a developer for my pushed films, D23 had a pretty high bar to jump when it came to sharpness and grain control. That being said, I am very pleased with the sharpness of these images. May not be up to Xtol standards, but if that is what I had wanted then I would have used Xtol. As for the grain, I find it pronounced yet pleasing. Contrast was equally manageable with very little needing to be done in post in order to get a look I liked. With all of that being said, I think it is safe to assume I feel this test was a success. As for doing this again, I don’t see it being a common thing pushing to 3200 (or beyond) but it is comforting to know that it is very doable. One thing is for certain though. Shooting at my desired 800/1600 should be no problem.

Nikon F4 | Ilford HP5 | D23

Phew! That was a bit longer than I expected it to be and I thank you if you stuck it out and read the whole thing. Do you have experience with D23 and HP5? Do you have any pointers you’d like to share so that I don’t reinvent the wheel? Questions? Feel free to post them in the comments below. They are always welcome.

God Bless and Happy Shooting!

3 thoughts on “Pushing HP5+ with D23

Add yours

    1. Thank you so very much. It never would have happened had it not been for the valuable information from your YouTube videos and website.

  1. Ah, but it’s the cook who makes the meal! I really admire your work and you use of such a simple developer to make beautiful silver images. Thank you for sharing your work and your methodology for others.

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